Lehmann the heartbreaker

Arsenal keeper rescues his side in historic shoot-out after Rooney-inspired United are left crestfallen and empty-handed
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The Independent Football

It always felt like a day in which history would be made and Arsenal won the FA Cup for the 10th time yesterday when the competition was decided on penalties for the first time.

It always felt like a day in which history would be made and Arsenal won the FA Cup for the 10th time yesterday when the competition was decided on penalties for the first time.

Quite how Arsenal did triumph will leave Manchester United and their manager Sir Alex Ferguson disbelieving for days to come. For two hours, United dominated - with Wayne Rooney the man of the match - but could not breach the Arsenal defence before succumbing in a shoot-out. Paul Scholes was the only taker to miss, with Jens Lehmann, possibly in his last Arsenal appearance, saving low to his right for a 5-4 win on penalties after a scoreless draw.

Almost half a century after Bert Trautmann's heroics, another German was a hero in the final. "When I came back into the team I looked around at the League, the Champions League and FA Cup and thought I'd like to win the Cup," Lehmann said. "I'm 35 and it was important." It was important, too, for his club. A barren season is unacceptable. Such is the standard Arsenal have set. Instead, they confined United to that fate. Ferguson said: "We felt as a team we played good football and created chances. We just could not take one and that has been the story of our season."

Much of the build-up had concentrated on the takeover of United by American tycoon Malcolm Glazer and Ferguson said he would "sit down with the owners" to ascertain what funds were available. "It is early days," he said, before announcing that he would not be meeting his new employer before he goes off on holiday.

The rest of the pre-match attention had talked about the contest as if it was a boxing match, with a tasty undercard headed by Vieira versus Keane. Ferguson complained that the Arsenal captain should have been dismissed but instead referee Rob Styles made Jose Antonio Reyes only the second player to be red-carded in the final. He follows on from United's Kevin Moran in 1985 and, like him, it will be up to the Football Association to award him a winner's medal. Moran was denied one.

The statistics continued to tumble. Despite the attacking weapons on display, it was the first goalless final since 1912 and the first since 1993 to go to extra-time - when Arsenal were winners as well.

This was also the last time that the final will be held in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, a venue that Arsenal have all but appropriated. In the five years the final has been away from Wembley, Arsenal have won the Cup three times.

Vieira, who struck the decisive penalty, said: "The game was difficult because we did not create many chances. But we showed fantastic spirit." He added of the penalty: "I was strong in my mind." Manager Arsène Wenger admitted Arsenal - in their 17th final just like United - had been fortunate. "We did not create enough going forward," he said before pointing out that "we have won our fourth final [under him] and the one we played best in [against Liverpool in 2001] we lost." Wenger also intimated that 35-year-old Dennis Bergkamp would be offered a new one-year contract.

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